Primary school literacy scores 'wrong' says exam board

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The results of computer-based literacy tests used by primary schools in Northern Ireland to see how they compare to other schools and other areas are wrong.

The problem concerns tests taken by 88,000 pupils in P4 and P7 across Northern Ireland last autumn.

They were hit by computer glitches.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) said it has discovered problems in the results from a commercial company.

CCEA said on Tuesday that the results received by pupils and parents were correct.

Numeracy results were also correct. But the problem is with standardised scores for literacy.

In a statement on Tuesday, CCEA said that the error had been found in standardised scores for the assessment provided by Tribal Group.

Age-related scores - those reported to parents - were not affected.

"CCEA is extremely disappointed that an error was introduced into the calculation resulting in erroneous scores and recognises the inconvenience and distress caused. CCEA apologises for this without reserve," the statement said.

Tribal Group also apologised for the inaccuracy and said: "It was caused by a calculation error in the processing of the approved data prior to publication.

"We have taken a number of steps to prevent this happening again, which include additional measures to validate results prior to them being published."

Last October, up to 400 primary schools had problems with the computer assessment for P4 and P7 pupils.

The Department of Education said that 180 schools had reported problems.

John O'Dowd Education Minister John O'Dowd called an urgent meeting over the error

Education Minister John O'Dowd said he called an urgent meeting with the chair and chief executive of CCEA when he heard about the error last week.

"While prompt action appears to have been taken by those involved once the issue was identified, it is simply not good enough that this arose in the first place," he said.

"I know that operating last year's new Computer Based Assessments (CBAs) was difficult for a number of schools and I made it clear at the time that the technical issues they faced were unacceptable. To have that experience compounded by this kind of error can only further undermine schools' confidence."

Mr O'Dowd has commissioned a review of CBA policy and practice.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Teachers Union (UTU) said the education minister should appreciate the depth of frustration felt by teachers and pupils following CCEA errors.

"We need a meaningful and practical solution to these repeated debacles unfolding in our schools," said former UTU president Diane Nugent.

"This situation is placing an intolerable strain on teachers and pupils alike.

"Time better spent teaching is being squandered on satisfying the department's insatiable appetite for data - data that is of little benefit to the pupils and provides little in the way of meaningful new information to parents."

Last October, up to 400 primary schools had problems with the computer assessment for P4 and P7 pupils.

The Department of Education said that 180 schools had reported problems.

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